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Tutor profile: Joe M.

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Joe M.
Private English Teacher and Foreign Language Expert
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Questions

Subject: Mandarin

TutorMe
Question:

My first language is English, but I want to start learning Mandarin. I've heard its a really difficult language to learn. What do I need to do to be successful?

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Joe M.
Answer:

I am also a native English speaker and have been learning Mandarin for 8 years. There are a few special things about Mandarin that make it hard for beginners, but in general, you should approach it like learning any foreign language. That means you need a solid study plan that you can stick to which covers the basics of listening, speaking, reading, and eventually writing. Although it is possible to learn some Mandarin with audio files and textbooks, a human teacher is by far the fastest and easiest way to learn. I would not recommend trying to learn the language without one. For English speakers especially, the hard parts of Mandarin are: the tones, the written characters, and the unique sounds (phonemes). Without a live teacher, it is almost impossible to figure out if you are doing these things correctly. Because of the big differences between English and Mandarin, learning the language will require a lot of hours. Part of the study plan you make with your teacher should be a consistent practice routine that has specific goals. The HSK coursebooks are a great resource. They provide a framework of learning from the most basic up to very advanced Chinese.

Subject: Writing

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Question:

I have to write a persuasive essay for school. I have a hard time writing because I never know what to say and my sentences are always short and choppy. How can I improve my writing to make my argument sound convincing?

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Joe M.
Answer:

There are two important factors for writing a good essay: content and form. The content is your argument. Do you have something important to write? Why are you correct? How can you refute any counterarguments? If you know the answers to these questions beforehand, your writing will be faster and clearer from the start. It is often helpful to look at what other people have written about this topic for inspiration, but always remember to track and cite sources if you want to quote from other people's work. The form is the structure of your essay and its sentences, as well as grammar and punctuation. Good grammar and punctuation comes with experience, but you can always check a reference guide online if you're not sure whether to use a comma here or a colon there. If you want to make your writing style more flowing, we can use specific reading and writing practice examples. Once you get comfortable reading and writing attributive modifiers, for example, you will find yourself naturally using them in your writing.

Subject: English

TutorMe
Question:

My teacher wants us to analyze "The Crucible" by Arthur Miller. What do I need to know about this play (genre, themes, characters)? How do I write about it?

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Joe M.
Answer:

"The Crucible" is play written in the mid-20th century and is a very important piece of American drama. Some editions include historical background information and a detailed character list. Once you've read the play, make sure to watch a performance of it online, which will show you a lot you may have missed in reading. This genre of this play is historical fiction. That means that the events really did happen, but the dialogue of the characters and the details are created by the author based on his/her research. In "The Crucible," the author uses the themes of truth, politics, and religion to show how the townspeople descended into madness. The first step to writing is to make a brief outline of the play. Try to answer a few basic questions and you will find that you know more than you think. For example: Is any one character clearly good or evil? Why do they act the way that they do? Then use what you have written to follow your teacher's essay writing guidelines.

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